A new pilot program in California’s San Mateo County will order unemployed parents who are unable to pay child support to get a job or face jail time. If the program proves successful, the entire state of California may follow suit.
Senate Bill 523, proposed by Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo), aims to help the more than 8,000 families in the county who are receiving no financial help from a parent who is supposed to be paying child support.
“If just one child is helped, that will be a success for me,” said Yee last Friday – the day the program was kicked off.
As it stands now, the court cannot pursue an unemployed non-custodial parent who is not making child support payments until 120 days of non-payment have passed. Those four months are precious for children who are going without resources, said Adrienne Tissier, who pushed for the legislation.
Across the system, 41 percent of cases that become delinquent become delinquent at the four month mark, and it takes six to nine months to find these parents in contempt.
This lack of financial support in addition to the parent separation “tears a family apart even further and devastates a child,” said Yee.
The Proposed Solution
The bill SB523 will allow judges to order unemployed parents to find jobs the moment a support order is issued. This will hopefully help keep parents from falling behind on their child support payments. This will also encourage delinquent spouses to find legitimate employment instead of under-the-table work, said Yee.
Parents who don’t comply can be charged with contempt, which could put them in jail, but punishment is not the goal.
“Incarceration doesn’t get child support to children,” said Iliana Rodriguez, director of the San Mateo County Department of Child Support Services.
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